Houston Texans hire San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as head coach

The Houston Texans have found their next head coach, and it's a face longtime fans of the team will easily recognize.

The Texans have hired San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to be the sixth head coach in franchise history, the team announced Tuesday.

Ryans, a former linebacker who played 10 seasons in the NFL, was selected by the Texans in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft and went on to play six seasons in Houston.

"We are thrilled to welcome DeMeco Ryans as the new head coach of the Houston Texans. For so many reasons, DeMeco is everything we are looking for in a leader and coach for our organization. He has a proven track record for developing high-quality players and constantly innovated his defensive scheme over the last six seasons in San Francisco," Texans owner Cal McNair said in a statement released by the team. "We started this process with the goal of finding someone our fans and city can be proud of and we've done just that.

"While we received a lot of incredible feedback and support for DeMeco from different people, it was our discussions with him and his vision for our football team that made him the right coach to lead us as we continue to evolve as an organization. Congratulations to DeMeco and his family and welcome back to H-Town."

Ryans, 38, is Black and becomes the first person of color hired as a head coach or coordinator during this cycle. He joins Sean Payton, who is reportedly set to become the Denver Broncos next coach, Frank Reich, who was hired as the head coach of the Panthers, and coordinators Ryan Nielsen (Falcons), Jim Schwartz (Browns), Kellen Moore (Chargers), Mike LaFleur (Rams), Vic Fangio (Dolphins), Bill O'Brien (Patriots) and Nathaniel Hackett (Jets) as new hires.

As defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC championship game.
As defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC championship game.

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"I'd like to first thank the San Francisco 49ers, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch for six incredible seasons where I grew as a coach and a man. I couldn't be prouder of what we accomplished together, and I will always cherish the relationships I built there," Ryans said in a statement released by the Texans. "Being the head coach of the Houston Texans is my dream job and my family is thrilled to be back in H-Town.

"I have been around the game of football my entire life and I've always had a natural ability to lead others. I know what it takes to win and be successful in this league as both a player and coach. We're going to build a program filled with players who have a special work ethic and relentless mindset. I understand the responsibility I have to this organization and to the fans of Houston to build winner and I can't wait to get to work."

Ryans has been a rising star within the NFL coaching ranks, needing only six seasons on the sideline before becoming a head coach. His coaching career started in 2017 as a defensive quality control assistant with San Francisco, before he was elevated to the inside linebackers coach. He spent the following three seasons in that role. Then, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan promoted Ryans to become the team's defensive coordinator in 2021.

In his first season leading the 49ers defense, the team ranked third in total defense, allowing 310 yards per game and tied for 10th in scoring (21.5 points per game allowed). This past season, the Niners progressed and became a dominant force, leading the NFL in total defense (300.6), scoring defense (16.3) and tied for second with 30 turnovers forced.

Players such as defensive end Nick Bosa, who is the favorite to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year award, and linebacker Fred Warner, who has earned two All-Pro nominations in the past three seasons, have shined under Ryans' tutelage.

"I hadn't thought about it up to this point because obviously you think you're going to win it all, but seeing him (after the game) was emotional," Warner said Sunday night after San Francisco's 31-7 loss in the NFC championship game. "It was the first time it kind of hit me that this was the last one with him. We came in this thing together. I owe everything to him. He's the reason I am the player I am today."

DeMeco Ryans played six seasons for the Houston Texans (2006-2011).
DeMeco Ryans played six seasons for the Houston Texans (2006-2011).

As a player for the Texans, Ryans earned two Pro Bowl nominations, in 2007 and 2009, and also won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2006 after he led the league with 87 solo tackles. He later played for the Philadelphia Eagles for four seasons to end his NFL career, which spanned from 2006-15. During his career, he recorded 970 total tackles, seven interceptions, 13.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and one defensive touchdown.

On Jan. 8, the Texans fired former coach Lovie Smith after only one season. He led Houston to a 3-13-1 record despite the team fielding a roster that lacked star talent at several positions. The only team to finish with a worse record was the Chicago Bears (3-14). Smith had replaced former coach David Culley, who was also fired after only one season in the role.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texans hire 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as head coach